Tag Archives: emotions

How are you making yourself feel?

by Dr. Barnes Boffey

Although it seems incredible and almost incomprehensible, the reality is that “we create both the emotions we love and those we hate.” Our emotions do not happen to us, they are the result of an experience coupled with the story we tell ourselves about that experience.


Suppose, for example, you are writing a greeting card, and your child runs by, hits your arm, and you end up scribbling on the card. How would that make you feel? The answer is that it wouldn’t make you feel anything. What would create your emotion is the story you begin to tell yourself about what happened. If you say “How can he be so clumsy,” you would feel frustrated and maybe angry. If you tell yourself “Oh, man, I just spent 10 minutes on this card. Not cool,” you might feel disappointed and frustrated. If you told yourself, “No big deal, he’s a kid and he didn’t mean to do it,” you might feel forgiving and calm. The emotion you “have” is a result of the story you create.

This is both good news and bad news. Good news because we now have a great deal of control over the story we tell ourselves and bad news because we can no longer blame everyone else in our lives for “making us” feel bad (or good). We have to give up the victim role, even knowing the power of being a victim and its many attendant assets. But in the long run, as emotional victims we are at the mercy of the world in which they live, a terrible place from which to try to meet our basic needs.

Helping each other tell different stories about our lives is the purview of a good friend, a parent, a counselor and a spouse/partner. Same story. . . same emotion. But knowing what to do and doing it are two different things. Some stories are very, very hard to change, especially once they become part of the fabric of who we are and how we present ourselves to the world.

Victimhood is a sad and ineffective perspective from which to our lives. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

A Little Acceptance

by Dr. Nancy Buck

Spending time with a  person who is in a miserable mood can be a misery.

You mention what a beautiful day you’re both blessed with and your companion mentions the irritating bugs that are so annoying. You smile for no particular reason and your grumble-grouch side kick complains that your ubiquitous joy is another source or irritation. Are you beginning to suspect that your friend is doing everything possible to have you join in the misery?

Is it possible that you are doing everything possible to have your partner join you in joy?

We human beings are a funny lot. Although no one can make us feel happy or miserable, feelings and emotions certainly seem contagious. Hanging around someone who is full of unhappiness and complaints can lead to our own feelings of irritation and upset. It is also possible that spending time with someone who is full of joy and laughter can influence our improved mood.

But if you are dancing and singing, standing on your head and juggling chickens all in an attempt to “cheer”someone’s mood, this will almost always backfire. If a person is committed to or needing to feel unhappy, miserable or grouchy for awhile, there is nothing that anyone can do to change their mind. They have to make this decision and choice themselves.

The one thing that you can do, however, that is kind, loving and respectful is to simply accept that your companion is feeling, thinking and behaving in a bad, sad or complaining mood. You don’t have to like it. And if you feel their mood is “rubbing off”on you, you can choose to temporarily disconnect. But the last thing you should do is to try and “make”them change their mind and mood.

Accepting the feelings of another, whether the other is your child, your parent, your partner or your friend is respectful, kind and loving. Accept that they are feeling this way for their own very good reasons, whether you understand those reasons or not. You can offer a listening ear and an understanding heart, if they want it. But trying to convince them not to feel the way they are is disrespectful, unkind and unloving.

You can contribute to the Mental Health & Happiness of another if you accept that this person is feeling the way they are. You can also contribute to your own Mental Health & Happiness by accepting your own feelings.

How our unremembered memories shape our mental health

By Dr. Ken Larsen

We start out as babies, learning to get our needs met.  We try to make sense out of what we are experiencing.  We write the early pages of our story in memory.  Even though we won’t remember that first chapter, it will still play an important part in the rest of our story.  That first unremembered memory will have an impact on our ability to regulate our emotions and on our ability to connect with others in social settings.

We learn that when we have a need, when we are hungry or wet, we can cry hoping that someone will pay attention.

Many of us have learned that there is someone to meet our needs.  To comfort us and let us know that we are wanted and worthwhile.

Some of us learn that our needs are a bother to the other someone in our life.  We begin to wonder about our worth.

When our needs are met with a loving response, we learn to trust and can connect with others in satisfying relationships.

When our needs are met with irritability or neglect or abuse, we learn not to trust.  We find it difficult to connect with others and are often lonely and alone.


As life goes on we tell our story to ourselves and to others.  If we have unremembered memories of a secure relationship from early on that is helping us get our needs met, our story tells of ongoing progress in learning and relationships.  We can probably regulate our difficult emotions when they trouble us and we can connect with others in satisfying relationships.

If our first chapter records shaky connections with caregivers, where our needs were met erratically and we couldn’t count on the comfort we needed, we tell ourselves and others of our inability to make progress in relationships.  We are either overly clingy and anxious or we avoid close connections because we remember the pain of that early failure to receive love and care from another.  We have problems dealing with the hard feelings we experience and look for something or someone outside of ourselves to fix the way we feel.

The telling of the story of our past shapes the present chapter.   If our story is mixed up and painful, it will affect how we deal with the present circumstances of life.  The good news is that we can change our story.  The answer is not in who can fix us.  The answer is within us.  We have a choice in how we tell our story to ourselves and to others.

If we are fortunate to connect with someone who can help us make sense out of the confusing conflicts of early life we can reframe the ways we tell our story.

We can make a choice today to organize a coherent narrative of our life, recognizing that we don’t have to repeat the past if we work at making good choices today.  We can learn that others can be trusted and we can take the risks to draw close.  We move cautiously, but we can choose to connect.  We come to see that we are not alone and that our needs to be connected in relationships can be realized.

We can learn that we are worthwhile and able to be with and share with others.   Making sense of our story helps us see who we really are and how we can find meaning and purpose.  We can learn to accept ourselves and our past and choose a fresh, new today with renewed hope and faith.  We can begin to live a more full life in the only time we have.   Not in the past.  In the now.

As we have learned to tell our own story in ways that are helpful, we can be ready to help others who may be struggling with a life story that has messed them up.

We have received the gift of making some sense of life, and we can give that gift to others.

We can tell our story so it brings life to ourself and to others, remembering what the song says “you hold the key to love and fear all in your trembling hand.  One key unlocks them both, it’s at your command.”



The Placebo Effect


By Dr. Ken Larsen

William James, whom some credit with being the father of American Psychology, once proclaimed, “I don’t sing because I’m happy, I’m happy because I sing.”

This simple yet profound statement points to the interconnection between what we do and how we feel.   Dr. Wm. Glasser points to what he calls “total behavior”.  Total behavior is recognizing the interplay between what we do, the ways we think, our emotions and our physiology.

We can only control our actions.  What we do shapes our thinking, which then impacts how we feel.  Finally, as we are learning, our thinking and emotions tie into our physiology,  and our mental and physical health.

The placebo effect shows us how what we believe has an effect on our health and well being.  Then there is the “nocebo” effect.  When we believe we are miserable and lonely, we probably will be.

We have a choice here.  We can let the way we feel rule our lives, or we can have some control over the way we feel by what we choose to do.  We can learn from Anna in “The King and I”

While shivering in my shoes
I strike a careless pose
And whistle a happy tune
And no one ever knows I’m afraid

The result of this deception
Is very strange to tell
For when I fool the people
I fear I fool myself as well